Some things never change, like the irrepressible desire to float a Hill Country river on a 100-degree day—with, most naturally, a cooler of beer. And while the basic art of loading one’s booze boat also remains the same (use a separate inner tube with a bottom, pump it with extra air for a snug fit around the cooler), what is new are a few rules. River regulations enacted in 2007 by the City of New Braunfels to curb rowdy behavior among the 600,000 visitors who descend upon the area each summer are now vigorously enforced at entry points and exits and at random checkpoints along the banks. “These changes affect the Guadalupe just upstream, or north, of Gruene and the Comal, since it falls within the incorporated city limits,” says New Braunfels police sergeant Chris Snyder, who notes that on Memorial Day weekend—the kickoff to tubing season—the city issued more than two hundred tickets. Here are a few tips for how to ferry your drinks.
A fine for littering can set you back $500. Tubing outfitters generally provide mesh bags to tie to your tube, but a trash bag poked with a few small holes (for less drag on your tube) will work in a pinch.
The city permits alcoholic beverages, with some stipulations: (1) no glass, so leave behind the Lone Star longnecks and that jar of martini olives, (2) no containers under five fluid ounces (read: no Jell-O shots), and (3) no “volume drinking devices,” the formal term for beer bongs.
Bring a rope and designate a responsible party to secure the cooler vessel by tying it to himself. This person should be able to navigate rapids while dragging extra cargo, have a good arm for tossing, and most important, not bogart the beer.
The most significant restriction? No more family-size ice chests. Each tuber may bring one sixteen-quart cooler, which in turn must have a locking mechanism, i.e., a latch or a zipper. And forget the Styrofoam. The law now also forbids all polystyrene carriers and containers.